For those wanting to hear fiddle solos in the context of
of bluegrass vocals, almost any of the albums on my recommended
bluegrass page would be worthwhile. If you're looking
for more fiddle-centric albums, try these below. The range
of fiddling albums is diverse and lengthy so here is a very
incomplete list of my favorite albums.
Kenny Baker, Plays Bill Monroe:
Kenny Baker played with Bill Monroe in the 60's, 70's and
80's. Bill always introduced him as "the greatest fiddler
in bluegrass music". This album is his tribute to Bill
Monroe. It displays his smooth, fluid fiddling over fiddle
tunes, and features many need-to-know classics. County Records
Michael Cleveland, Flamekeeper:
This album came out in 2001 and is a bluegrass fiddling album
tour-de-force. A high energy mix of traditional fiddle tunes
and vocals, with some of the best players on the bluegrass
scene. Cleveland's fiddling is the perfect mix of fresh ideas
and a strong sense of tradition, impressive for such a young
fiddler (early twenties). Maybe my favorite BG fiddle album
of all. RounderRecords
Aubrey Haynie, Doin' My Time:
The first solo album from one of the super-hot new players.
This is a mix of traditional tunes, original tunes and some
bluegrass vocals. Fiddling at the highest level, Haynie is
among the best of the young generation of creative, talented
Stuart Duncan: Stuart gets my
vote for the greatest bluegrass fiddler of the last 20 years.
He is a member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band, so you'll
get great fiddling on any of their albums, but he also plays
on lots of studio recordings from bluegrass to country. Almost
anything he's on will have amazing fiddling - he is probably
the greatest improvisor bluegrass has ever had - but I especially
like his playing on the Jim Mills' banjo album, Bound To
Ride, on Sugar Hill.
Bobby Hicks: One of the historic
greats, having played with Monroe in the 1950's and then with
Ricky Skaggs for about twenty years. His playing on the landmark
Bluegrass Album Band recordings with Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe
and others is quintessential bluegrass fiddling, especially
as it relates to playing breaks over singing pieces. There
are several of these albums on Rounder, but I'd start with
vol 1, Rounder 11502.
Brittany Haas: Brittany was a
long time student of mine but I'm not being biased when I
say she is one of the most talented fiddlers to ever come
upon the scene. This album was recorded at the age of 16,
and shows more maturity than most musicians ever attain. It's
old-time tunes, played the old-time way, yet backed up in
a very modern, Darol Anger arranged fashion. Available at
County Sales or
direct from Brittany's
Bruce Molsky, Lost Child: Bruce
is the leading figure in the world of old-time fiddling today.
Very rhythmic bowing and with a higher level of execution
than typical old-time, Bruce has a compelling style that has
become very influential. This album is mostly fiddle tunes,
using various tunings, some old-time banjo tunes, and a few
nicely sung pieces, but any of his albums are good. Rounder
Rayna Gellert, Ways of the World:
A solid album of straight southeastern old-time fiddling,
nicely done. Rayna is clean, accurate and very easy to listen
Echoes of the Ozarks, vol.1.
A compilation of original recordings from the 30's, this CD
has a nice mix of tunes and styles. Some of these tunes have
become classics. County
Dirk Powell, If I Go Ten Thousand
Miles: Another of the top old-time players of today, this
is an old-time album with a touch of a bluegrass feel. Some
interesting tunes and songs and great backing musicians.
Tommy and Fred, Best Fiddle-Banjo
Duets: This is the real deal - not for the faint of heart.
Tommy Jarrell is one of the old-time fiddling heroes. He was
re-discovered in his retirement years of the 70's and 80's
and became a favorite of the young revivalist fiddlers., before
his passing away. Very punchy and complex bowing make for
an interesting sound. As with many of the older generation
fiddlers, the beauty in the playing of these tunes can be
an acquired taste - but well worth acquiring.
The Best of Fiddle Fever: This
album is a mix of styles, with three fiddlers Matt Glaser,
Evan Stover and Jay Unger combining for a well thought-out
ensemble sound, somewhere between northern and southern fiddling.
Lots of energy and very easy to listen to. This also has the
original version of Ashokan Farewell, the most celebrated
fiddle tune of the last 20 years.
Mark O'Connor, Heroes: Mark O'Connor
is one of the most remarkable fiddlers ever - once a child
prodigy Texas-style fiddler, who now has the technical skills
of the highest classical players. This album features him
playing with many of his fiddling heroes, from Benny Thomason
to Vassar Clements to Stephane Grapelli and others in styles
more rooted in tradition than one hears from him these days.
Darol Anger, Diary of a Fiddler:
More than anything else, Darol seems to like to play behind
other fiddlers, and he is a master of creative backup. Here
is a chance to sample a number of fiddlers, from Cape Breton
to old-time to bluegrass and beyond trading ideas with Darol.
Johnny Gimble, The Texas Fiddle Collection:
Probably the most celebrated western swing fiddler, this album
has a very down-home, under-produced quality about it (in
a good way). Johnny is still going strong, having put his
time in with Bob Wills in the 50's. A mix of traditional Texas
fiddling (no contest fiddling here) and jazzy western swing,
this is a great intro to the variety of the older Texas players'
Martin Hayes: When Martin put
out his first Irish fiddle album in 1992, he received rave
reviews, including the one I wrote for Fiddler Magazine. He
is a master of nuance and subtlety, and seems to prefer playing
simply with emphasis on tones and textures. His first album
just titled Martin Hayes, is my choice but all of his albums
are very similar. Green Linnet
Natalie MacMaster: Natalie has
become one of the most popular fiddlers in the world, in part
because of her on-stage presence, which includes high-kick
dancing while playing intricate fiddle tunes. That doesn't
come across very well on a CD but you will hear Cape Breton
fiddling at the highest level - then go check her out live.
Try No Boundaries.
Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas,
Fire and Ice: Alasdair is one of the top Scottish fiddlers
(though he now resides in California) and here he teams up
with the amazing cello player Natalie Haas. Natalie recorded
this as a student at Juillard, but make no mistake, she has
spent the greater part of her musical life in the world of
fiddling - see her sister Brittany's recording
in the old-time category. Even with just two players the result
is a powerful rhythmic and melodic intertwining of two masters.
Stephane Grappelli: For upscale
jazz violin, almost any album made by Grappelli will do, but
if you want to hear his early landmark playing, get one of
the Hot Club of France albums, with Django Rienhardt. For
later Grappelli, I like the Grappelli/Grisman live album,
with the added bonus of Mark O'Connor playing fiddle on a